All about the self-publishing route

Is it a recurring thought in your head that you might like to dip your toe in the water and publish your own book but you have no clue how to go about it? My friend Ruth Barrett is in the middle of this complicated process and has gathered tons of valuable information on the do’s and don’ts of self-publishing.

I’m delighted Ruth has agreed to write a guest blog on this topic to help other struggling authors. Feel free to comment and/or to get in touch with her. I hope Ruth’s blog will help some of you to take the plunge.

Ruth: I am now in the process of self-publishing my first novel, ‘Base Spirits’, and it might interest other writers to know what I’m up to and why. Maybe you’re new, and are attracted to the idea of self-publishing as a way of getting your work out to an audience for the first time. Maybe– like me– you’ve published a number of short stories and been through a soul-destroying few years of trying to get a novel out through the traditional method. I’m sure you’re familiar with it: write a book. Polish it to a sheen. Research possible agents and publishers. Query. Wait. Be told that it’s a good book, but… a) we don’t accept un-agented authors b) we aren’t taking on more clients at this time c) it’s good, but it’s not quite the sort of project we’re taking on right now. And then there’s that crazy merry-go-round of you can’t get a book deal without an agent… but agents aren’t too keen on new clients unless they have a book deal! Yeah. It made my head explode.

In my own case, I had excellent help getting to the ‘right’ desks, and my book was widely praised… then very nicely rejected with “I’m sure you’ll have no trouble placing this ELSEWHERE.” And of course, protocol does not allow me to call or write back and ask for an introduction to this magic ‘elsewhere’. And then another round begins with much the same result– chasing after leads and sending out query after query, submission after submission.

Never really felt good. I’m not very submissive by nature! And it sucks to have the
same cycle repeat itself over and over with no result. That way madness lies.

Self-publishing has been around forever. It used to have the terrible moniker of ‘vanity press’. People would sometimes pay stupid amounts of money just to see their work in print, and some companies provided this service– happily making money off of someone else’s dearest (and hapless) dream. No bookstore would touch a self-published book (except out of pity or as a favour to a friend). Generally,
the books were unedited and had ugly cover art. No one was doing themselves any
earthly good by putting their name on such inferior products. And truthfully? A lot of the time, there was a reason why their book wasn’t getting an agent or a ‘real’ publisher: it sucked.

That was the old way.

Now? Instead of paying out of pocket for a print run, independent authors have
options like Kindle and Smashwords right at their fingertips. E-books are hot.
People love gadgets, and they love to read… and now they love to read on gadgets! It costs little-to-nothing for a writer to publish, and if they are willing to roll up their sleeves and get creative with social media, it costs not much more than time to self-market. Let’s face it: even when an author does get a deal with a traditional publisher, they are still expected to blog and have Twitter accounts. That’s what it takes in the industry nowadays. You may like it– you may lump it– but if you embrace it and are savvy, it can pay off.

I know, I know. I haven’t even put the book out yet. But? Since I decided to throw all
caution and possibly my residual sanity aside, things have been very promising and exciting.

What finally pushed me to it, besides all of the above? I nearly died– on three
separate occasions over the course of three years. If that doesn’t rewire your thinking, I don’t know what would. I’m fine now (thanks for asking), but it made me realize that none of us can afford to just wait around for other people to make up their minds in order to do what we most desire in this life.

So, in the few short weeks since I decided to leap, this is what I’ve done.

First and foremost– and I cannot stress this enough– I have a good, commercially viable book. It is spit-polished and professionally edited. There is no point in putting yourself out there hoping to gain a readership if you aren’t giving them the best damn book you are capable of writing. In the end, that is all that matters. This is your legacy. Make it count.

Downloading your book onto Kindle or Smashwords is free. Personally, I chose to use a professional formatter to make sure my book will fit the different e-book
platforms, as well as a print edition. I didn’t want to take any chances that it would look bad on the page. I chose http://www.52novels.com/. I figured if they are good enough for http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/ then they must be the best! If you take nothing else away from my post today, go read J.A. Konrath’s excellent blog!
I did. It’s another big reason we’re having this little chat right now.

I started a blog to chronicle the process, and hopefully gain some followers and insights along the way:http://ruth-barrett-spiritedwords.blogspot.com/

It was pretty easy, and free. That fits my budget. There are a few free blogger sites:
have a google and find one that appeals. Look at other writer’s sites and if you like the way their blog looks, see who they use. If you do blog, try to do it at least once a week. Don’t get all gung-ho and try to post something twice a day. You’ll run out of steam quickly and your target readers will soon run out of patience. Have fun with it– use images and links. Entertain. Tell stories. Entice them to come back for more. That’s what writers do, right?

I’ve also opened the Pandora’s box known as twitter. http://twitter.com/#!/LadyCalverley/followers I was doubtful at first: I was a luddite, and I love words. (What do you mean a 140 character limit? Poo!) But I’ve since connected with a bunch of other authors and creative folks, and the networking is invaluable. I found my cover artist through a connection I made, and my novel is going to look like a bestseller (if I had the finished design in hand, I’d link it here, too– but he’s had a delay because of a request from Random House! See? I didn’t have to be accepted by *them* to get a super snazzy cover.) It didn’t cost me an arm and a leg either! I figured out hashtags and I call my followers tweeps. I’m building a community and creating a buzz before the book is out. Facebook is good for this as well. Just have a separate author page and do NOT post TMI status updates about your personal life. There’s a fine line between being friendly and being too intimate– know the difference!

If you found this at all helpful or intriguing, I hope you’ll keep an eye on my blog
(again http://ruth-barrett-spiritedwords.blogspot.com/), and Hannah has generously invited me back when ‘Base Spirits’ is launched… so Ill see you again in September! Thanks for reading.

THANK YOU, RUTH! You have elucidated a complicated process.

4 Responses to “All about the self-publishing route”

  1. OK. You got me. I was on track with you until I got half way through. Yep. Did that. Uh-hun, understand that. Um-hm, that looks familiar. And then? Well you mention some links and lingo that is new to me. More grist for the learning mill. Thank you for giving me more options and being so encouraging.

    I, too, am working on getting ready to e-pub “Through Kestrel’s Eyes” second in my “Earth’s Pendulum” trilogy. However, because the first book “Back From Chaos” is has a loyal, albeit small, paper following I will also need to add a print on demand option. It is all work but it is MY work and I like control. So we will keep at it together with so many other good writers who have too many barriers to cross to get out the the traditional way.

  2. Wendy Reis says:

    The first thing I want to say is that it’s a joy to be able to post a comment without jumping through distracting, time-consuming “sign-in” “log-on” hoops. What a treat!
    If you don’t already follow Ruth’s blog you are missing out on something that will both entertain and inspire. This lady is a polished gem.

  3. Ruth, I’m delighted to watch your progress! How quickly it is that you’re making great strides. The sky is the limit. See you at the top!
    -Jason

  4. Ruth Barrett says:

    Thanks so much for the encouraging words! It’s been a whirlwind few weeks… and so far, so good! As they say: “Watch this space…”

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